At the Mid-Winter Scottish/Irish Festival Celtic Music Fans Can Kick Up Their Heels
The weekend of February 14-17 is already awash in red for Valentine's Day and red, white and blue for Presidents' Day. But if your tastes run more toward green, check out the 22nd Annual Greater Philadelphia Scottish & Irish Music Festival and Fair at the Valley Forge Casino Resort. Starting Friday, February 14, the three-day event is a steady stream of concerts from a broad range of noted musicians, all performing tunes from the Emerald Isle.
But this isn't just Bing Crosby crooning "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." According to Bill Reid, of East of the Hebrides Entertainments, the bands are going to rock the house beyond what most people expect in a concert of this type. "What really distinguishes this event," he says, "is the quality and caliber of entertainers coming from all over: the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K."
Playlists will range from traditional folk music to Celtic rock, a style in which drums, bagpipes, guitars and other instruments explode with head-banging energy. That brand of performance is exactly the strength of Rathkeltair, a Jacksonville Beach, Fla., group that is on the festival's program for Saturday and Sunday. One of the band's founders, Neil Anderson, is affectionately gained the nickname "The Bagpipe Monster," indicating his skill and dynamism. Reid elaborates: "Neil has been referred to as Jimi Hendrix on bagpipes."
The festival is also a chance to get up close and personal with some of music's most unusual instruments. Seminars will answer the question: "What the Heck Is a Bagpipe," providing the chance to try to an instrument that looks like the cross between a vacuum cleaner bag and an octopus.
And if you can master the skill of "circular breathing," a talent that requires inhaling via the nose while exhaling by mouth into a wind instrument, the didgeridoo might be just your thing. This hollow-sounding horn is part of the sound of the indigenous Australians of northern Australia.
Reid's son, Andrew, has become proficient. "He has travelled all over the world playing," he says. "He recently recorded an album for the Australian government where he was recorded in a pyramid in Egypt." Andrew goes by the name "DidgeriDrew" when playing with the band "Brother."
According to Reid senior, the educational aspect of his musicianship is one he is comfortable with. "He goes into schools and has 30-40 kids bring in PVC pipe that they make didges out of," says Reid. "The kids paint them up and by that afternoon, they're doing music." DidgeriDrew has also used his proficiency with the instrument to craft a way for it to change key from its usual monotone drone, enabling the horn to be played with guitars, pipes and other variably pitched instruments.
The Mid-Winter Scottish & Irish Celtic Music Festival also features activities and attractions for those who are not musically inclined. Crafts, clothing, food, whiskey, gifts and demos of the Irish/Scots tongue Gaelic are also in the mix.
Reid says that this event is not only for fans of the "Auld Sod" of Ireland and Scotland, but for anyone who wants a family-friendly outing with a rich overlay of cultural depth. It's an event for young and old: "We get kids that are two or three years old who get swept up in the sound of huge drums, and they can't stop themselves from dancing," he summarizes.
All that dancing, eating, applauding, cheering, shopping and celebrating can sure take its toll. At the end of the day, lay your head on a downy bed in one of our fine accommodations, several of which are comfy B&Bs in the style of those in Scotland and Ireland. The Cabin Fever Reliever deals on our website can get you in a plush room for a night or two, without laying out much "green" at all.